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[frahyt-fuh l] /ˈfraɪt fəl/

such as to cause ; dreadful, terrible, or alarming:
A frightful howl woke us.
horrible, shocking, or revolting:
The storm did frightful damage.
Informal. unpleasant; disagreeable:
We had a frightful time.
Informal. very great; extreme:
That actor is very talented but a frightful ham.
(intensifier): I’m frightfully glad
very alarming, distressing, or horrifying
unpleasant, annoying, or extreme: a frightful hurry

mid-13c., “timid;” c.1600 “alarming;” from fright + -ful. In common with most -ful adjectives, it once had both an active and passive sense. Meaning “dreadful, horrible, shocking” (often hyperbolic) is attested from c.1700; Johnson noted it as “a cant word among women for anything unpleasing.” Related: Frightfully.


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